It Ain't Easy Being Green

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SWBAT design a solution to reduce the amount of energy consumed in their homes.

Big Idea

Students have to identify a minimum of three items in their homes that they could make more efficient to change lower their utility bills.

Getting Started

In this lesson, students design a solution for saving money on their utility bills by suggesting changes to appliances and energy use in their homes. They use data from previous lessons including Energy Audit one, Energy Audit: Personal Energy Use (Part 2), and Light's Out. In these three lessons students collected data on their individual energy use, the electricity, natural gas, and oil use of their household. And compared the electrical out put and use of different types of lightbulbs.

If you are considering using this lesson and have not used those three lessons, it does work as a stand alone. However, you may want to adjust some of the language I have provided that refers to previous lessons and data sets.


  • Computers
  • Presentation software
  • Data from energy audit and lab investigations
  • Science journals


45 minutes

I tell my students that their task is to identify at least three items in their home that they can make more efficient in order to change their utility bills.

I offer a few rules and some hints to working through this problem. 

  • Switching out all light bulbs counts as only one item.
  • Use your wattmeter and infrared thermometer to measure energy flux in a few appliances in your home.  Are any of these appliances not performing well?  Check current energy star rated appliances (online research) and compare to existing appliances.
  • Is there anything in your home that is using power when it is off?  (Use the wattmeter.)
  • If it’s cold outside, try using the infrared thermometer to check heat losses through your windows and doors.

In addition, students must answer some questions about the items that they have selected. The questions are as follows:

  1. How much energy could be saved by replacing your appliance/system/item?
  2. How much money would it cost to replace the item?
  3. How long until the item paid for itself?
  4. What is the biggest deterrent to your execution of your own recommendation?

Finally, students create a technical presentation of their findings. The expectations for the presentation are as follows:

  1. Presentations are 5-6 minutes long.  No longer.
  2. You present an overview of your research  (Don’t tell me everything, just what’s important to get your point across to your peers.)
  3. You may use visual aids such as Energy Star labels, etc. 
  4. The tone of your presentation is to an audience of your peers.
  5. You must convince the audience that your work is feasible and replicable.
  6. Have a clear takeaway statement. Give a part of your research to the audience. Teach us!


45 minutes

Give time for students to share their plans and discus with the class. 

Below is a student presentation for you to use as example.  

In the video below I explain a bit home this lesson embodies NGSS Science Practice 8


30 minutes

Use the attached rubric to evaluate student presentations. I give them this rubric at the beginning of the project and asked that they come the day self-evaluation, scoring themselves in the categories, and turn this in on the date they present. I then use their form and add my scores and comments.